The last time the Denver Broncos put together a 9-game winning streak was in 1996. Coincidentally they finished the regular season at 13-3. That was the year they were supposed to win it all, but the Jacksonville Jaguars interrupted that with an upset win and prevented the Broncos from capping off an excellent season.
You may ask why I bring up that painful memory. This isn’t 1996. The Jaguars are quite possibly the worst team in the league. Our beloved team just walked into M&T Stadium on Sunday and went all Twisted Sister on the Baltimore Ravens, saying "We’re Not Gonna Take It" and literally ran off with their first franchise victory against the Ravens.
This team is on a mission. You can see it by the way they contribute and play for one another. Don’t just take my word for it, let me show you as we distribute the Game Balls for Week 15.
Running Back Knowshon Moreno gets the Game Ball here. It seems strange that this would end up happening this year. Moreno was on his last leg after many incidences and issues kept him focused on providing a decent return in the Broncos 1st round investment. Holding out during his first Training Camp, immaturity, preventable injuries and a few off-the-field occurrences put him in the doghouse. Inactive from Week 2 to Week 12, when he became the next man up due to Willis McGahee's injury, Moreno has responded with 391 rushing yards and 2 Touchdowns in the last 4 games. He's also caught 14 passes for 96 yards and more importantly, held onto the ball.
On Sunday, Knowshon carried the workload to help keep the Ravens from getting any momentum. The Broncos had 12 first Downs on the ground, held onto the ball and controlled the clock 38:34 to 21:26. Moreno finished with 118 yards and a Touchdown on 22 carries with a 5.4 average. It was the second consecutive week that Knowshon topped the 100-yard mark.
Wide Receiver Eric Decker gets the Golden Horseshoe this week. Eric stepped up when the Ravens decided to shut down Demaryius Thomas for their game plan on Sunday. Decker caught 8 passes for the second week in a row for 133 yards, including a 51-yard Touchdown on 11 Targets. Of those 8 receptions, 5 went for a 1st Down. Eric has 72 catches for 923 yards and a career-high 9 Touchdowns, which lead the Broncos.
Honorable Mention goes to the Broncos Offensive Line for their excellent Run Blocking.
There’s no question that the Denver Defense has made strides this season. We saw a glimpse of their potential last year, in between a couple of injuries to some key players. This year, the depth has been addressed by some shrewd moves by the Front Office, including the addition of Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio. It took 3 or 4 games for this Unit to really gel, as well as the rest of the team, but they are hitting on all cylinders. Such was the case in Sunday’s match with the Baltimore Ravens.
The Broncos front 7 held Ray Rice and the Ravens ground game to 56 yards, almost half of their average 108 yards through Week 14. They also held the Baltimore Offense to 1 for 12 (8.3%) on 3rd Down conversions. The Ravens were held scoreless in the 1st half and didn’t get on the board until 12:18 in the 3rd Quarter. Jacoby Jones returned the kickoff to start the 2nd half 50 yards, but the Ravens drive stalled at the 27-yard line and they were forced to come away with a Justin Tucker 45-yard Field Goal. Baltimore added 14 more points in the 4th Quarter during garbage time on a pair of Dennis Pitta catches, but the game was decided before halftime.
The Game Ball on Defense goes to Defensive Back Chris Harris, who picked off Joe Flacco 12 seconds before the end of the 2nd Quarter and ran it back 98 yards to put the Broncos up 17-3. Flacco was staring down Anquan Boldin and held the ball way too long. Harris jumped the route and narrowly escaped Flacco’s pursuit on his way to the end zone. Chris only made one Tackle during the contest, but that Pick-Six put a sour taste in the Ravens craw. Harris was thrown at 5 times during the game, allowing one 13-yard catch to Tandon Doss.
All-Pro Cornerback Champ Bailey gets the nod for the Golden Horseshoe on Defense this week. Champ led the team in Tackles with 7 on Sunday and had his best game of the year. Bailey was thrown at 6 times, allowing 4 catches for 40 yards. He broke up a pass intended for Anquan Boldin, who was held without a catch in the game. Champ allowed Torrey Smith's only reception of the game, a 14-yarder, a 4-yard catch to Jacoby Jones and a pair of grabs by David Reed. Between Chris Harris, Tony Carter and Champ Bailey, the Ravens Deep threats were rendered harmless. Baltimore Tight End Dennis Pitta caught two garbage time Touchdowns, but the first was earned by two broken Tackles and an Ole’ attempt by Tony Carter. The second was a failed Pass Breakup by Safety Mike Adams. To be fair, Pitta had position and the height advantage, easily out jumping Adams for the catch.
A pair of Silver Horseshoes go to "Von Doom," Linebacker Von Miller and Defensive End Elvis Dumervil. Between these two, they disrupted Joe Flacco’s rhythm and wreaked havoc in the Raven backfield, accounting for 9 Hurries, 5 Quarterback Hits, 2 Tackles For a Loss and 1 Sack. Von was held without a Sack for the first time since Week 8 and Dumervil got his first in 3 games. The Broncos Pass Rush amassed 11 Hurries, 9 quarterback Hits, 5 Tackles For a Loss and 3 Sacks on the day.
Honorable Mentions to Derek Wolfe, Robert Ayers (1 Sack each), Justin Bannan (Forced Fumble) and Rahim Moore (Fumble Recovery). This was truly a team effort.
The Broncos Special Teams Unit didn’t have a very good showing on Sunday. A Fumble, a Missed Field Goal and some missed Tackles keep them without a Game Ball. Fortunately, the bounces went Denver’s way and the Broncos were victorious.
The Golden Horseshoe goes to Kicker Matt Prater, who despite missing yet another 40-something yard Field Goal, still managed 10 points. He also made two Touchdown saving Tackles during kickoffs that may have turned the tables for the Ravens. The No.1 ranked Baltimore Special Teams Unit had 144 yards on 6 Kick Returns, which isn’t so bad, but Jacoby Jones had 112 yards (28.0 avg.) on 4 of them. The Ravens also got 52 yards on 5 Punt Returns (10.4 avg.). The Broncos were definitely outmatched in this facet of the game and it’s a good thing the Defense came for a battle.
Honorable Mention goes to Linebacker Steven Johnson, who was in on 3 Special Teams Tackles.
Next up for Denver is a visit from the 5-9 Cleveland Browns, who opened as a 13.5 point underdog for Week 16.
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